PIETER VAN DER WERFF (Kralingen-Ambacht 1665 – 1722 Rotterdam)
Pieter van der Werff (Kralingen-Ambacht 1665 – 1722 Rotterdam)
Portrait of a Gentleman
Oil on canvas, 44 x 37 cm (17.3 x 14.6 inch); framed in a modern carved and gilt frame of 18th-century model
Private collection, Belgium
Casually yet elegantly dressed in a loose house coat of expensive material, with a slightly dishevelled white lace neck scarf, a mature gentleman intelligently observes the beholder, a touch of mischief in his eyes. Although his clothes are manufactured from the costliest fabrics, he wears them with nonchalance, and has something of the air of a scholar. The architectural background, arm casually leaning on a stone plinth, places the as yet unidentified sitter in the highest echelons of Dutch society, where Pieter van der Werff found his clients.
Pieter van der Werff was born near Rotterdam, and spent most of his working life in this city.1 He was trained by his brother Adriaen van der Werff (1659–1722), the most celebrated Dutch painter of the period around 1700, patronised by Kings and Princes. Like his elder brother Adriaen, Pieter worked in a refined classicist style that was popular during the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century, though he lacked some of his brother’s finesse and suave manners. Pieter mostly painted works with mythological subjects and portraits of wealthy Rotterdam citizens.
The present work can be compared to Pieter van der Werff’s portrait of Adriaen de Lange (1633–1693), dated 1700, in the Haags Historisch Museum (fig.).2 Both works are nearly identical in dimensions and display a similar placement of the three-quarter length figure against a Classical background, executed in Van der Werff’s signature highly refined technique. Our portrait is also likely to date from the period around 1700.
Paintings by Pieter van der Werff can be found in many of the world’s leading museums, including the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Louvre in Paris, the Hermitage in St Petersburg and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
1. For Pieter van Der Werff, see J. Aono, ‘Ennobling daily life: a question of refinement in early eighteenth-century genre painting’, Simiolus 33 (2007/2008), p. 237-357.
2. Oil on canvas, 47 x 38 cm, inv. no. 1870-0015-SCH; Friso Lammertse, ‘Over enklee Rotterdamse portretten van Caspar Netscher’, in: Charles Dumas (ed.), Face Book. Studies on Dutch and Flemish portraiture of the 16th-18th centuries, Leiden/The Hague 2012, p. 408, fig. 5.